With the legalization of marijuana set to come into effect on July 1, 2018, many Canadian companies, plan carriers and insurance brokerages are waiting to see how this plays out.
The impact that this legislation will have on employee benefits is still relatively unpredictable at this point. We face differing predictions, lots of speculation and a multitude of unknowns, but here’s what we do know… Health Canada has yet to issue a drug identification number (DIN for short) for marijuana. In simple terms – drugs without a DIN number cannot be processed through the prescription drug portion of your benefits plan. However, this doesn’t mean that an employee cannot be reimbursed for the costs associated with medicinal marijuana (if the employer wishes to do so), as the Canada Revenue Agency does classify this as an approved medical expense for tax purposes. CostPlus or Health Spending Accounts are one option which allow for reimbursement of the employee while giving the employer the ability to set a maximum budget for this type of expense. Some insurers are also developing new categories within their offerings specifically to address this new form of employee claim.
It’s important to understand that while the legalization will happen over night on July 1st, the impact to employee benefits won’t. It will take some time to identify trends and understand the full impact that medicinal marijuana will have on employee benefits. While this topic still has many unknowns, you can somewhat prepare yourself for what may come. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a conversation to understand the changes that are being implemented by the carrier (each may handle marijuana related claims in a different manner)
- Your Broker should work closely with you to review your plan design and develop a plan to manage costs associated with marijuana claims if necessary
- Stay up-to-date on the topic so that you are proactive where possible and able to react quickly when news/action items are delivered
There isn’t a road map for navigating the unknown, but at HMA, we’re keeping our finger tightly on the pulse so that we’re educated, armed with answers where available and ready to react as this topic develops.